The U.S. government issued an urgent plea to more than 4.7 million people to get the air bags in their cars fixed amid concern that a defect in the devices can possibly kill or injure the driver or passengers.
The inflator mechanisms in the air bags can rupture, causing metal fragments to fly out when the bags are deployed in crashes. Safety advocates say at least four people have died from the problem and there have been multiple injuries.
Multiple automakers have recalled vehicles in the U.S. over the past two years to repair air bag inflators made by Takata Corp., a Tokyo-based supplier of seat belts, air bags, steering wheels and other auto parts. In a statement Monday, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration warned owners of those cars to act right away.
The agency has been investigating the problem since June, and has cited reports of six inflators rupturing, causing three injuries.
Worldwide, automakers have recalled about 12 million vehicles because of the problem.
The warning covers cars made by Toyota, Honda, Mazda, BMW, Nissan, General Motors and Ford. Passenger or driver air bags or both could have the faulty inflators. Safety advocates say the problem could affect more than 20 million vehicles in the U.S.
The rare action by federal regulators comes three weeks after a Sept. 29 crash near Orlando, Florida, that claimed the life of a 46-year-old woman. In that crash, Hien Thi Tran suffered severe neck wounds that could have been caused by metal fragments flying out of the air bag on her 2001 Honda Accord. Her Accord was among the models being recalled.
One police agency concluded that the air bags caused her wounds, while another is still investigating. NHTSA is seeking information in the case.
Find out if your vehicle is affected by going to www.safercar.gov/vinlookup and entering your VIN number.
The recall applies to nearly 13,000 Toyota and 168 Lexus vehicles in Hawaii, and one local dealership says not everyone will be able to get the necessary repairs right away.
“There is a shortage of the part to repair so the initial recommendation is to not have anyone occupy the front passenger seat and once you come in, until we get the parts in, the temporary fix is for us to disengage the front passenger airbag,” said Rick Ching, Servco Automotive president.
The following is a statement from Toyota Hawaii:
There are potentially 12,889 Toyota and 168 Lexus vehicles in Hawaii affected by today’s front passenger air bag inflator module voluntary safety recall. Vehicles affected by this campaign are certain 2003-05 Toyota Corolla, 2003-05 Toyota Matrix, 2003-05 Toyota Tundra, 2002-2005 Toyota Sequoia and 2002-2005 Lexus SC430. Today’s campaign is supplemental to an earlier campaign so some vehicles may have previously been fixed. Owners of vehicles that still need to be repaired will receive a letter from Toyota by the end of October. As owner safety is our primary concern, Toyota Hawaii strongly recommends that if you are driving a vehicle that is potentially impacted by this campaign, you immediately prohibit anyone from sitting in the front passenger seat until the campaign remedy is completed by a Toyota Hawaii dealer, you confirm that your front passenger air bag inflator module has been replaced under the earlier campaigns or you confirm that your vehicle is not covered by this campaign.
As this campaign includes vehicles manufactured by BMW, Chrysler, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Nissan and Mitsubishi, as well as Toyota and Lexus, there is currently a worldwide shortage of replacement parts to remedy the condition. So, when you bring your vehicle in for service, if your Toyota Hawaii dealer is not able to replace the inflator module at your appointment, they will temporarily disable the front passenger air bag until a part is available to complete the repair.
If you are driving an affected vehicle and you do not receive a letter concerning this recall from Toyota by early November, please call your Toyota Hawaii or Lexus Hawaii dealer to confirm that your vehicle is not affected. Updated information including an Owner FAQ is posted on the Toyota Hawaii and Lexus Hawaii websites.
Affected Vehicles, by Manufacturer, Impacted by CY 2013 and 2014 Recalls Involving Takata Airbags
Toyota: 778,177 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2004 Lexus SC
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla
2003 – 2004 Toyota Corolla Matrix
2002 – 2004 Toyota Sequoia
2003 – 2004 Toyota Tundra
2003 – 2004 Pontiac Vibe
Honda: 2,803,214 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2007 Honda Accord (4 cyl)
2001 – 2002 Honda Accord (6 cyl)
2001 – 2005 Honda Civic
2002 – 2006 Honda CR-V
2003 – 2011 Honda Element
2002 – 2004 Honda Odyssey
2003 – 2007 Honda Pilot
2006 – Honda Ridgeline
2003 – 2006 Acura MDX
2002 – 2003 Acura TL/CL
Nissan: 437,712 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2001 – 2003 Nissan Maxima
2001 – 2003 Nissan Pathfinder
2002 – 2003 Nissan Sentra
2001 – 2003 Infiniti I30/I35
2002 – 2003 Infiniti QX4
2003 – Infiniti FX
Mazda: 18,050 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2003 – 2004 Mazda6
2004 – Mazda RX-8
BMW: 573,935 total number of potentially affected vehicles
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sedan
2000 – 2006 3 Series Coupe
2000 – 2005 3 Series Sports Wagon
2000 – 2006 3 Series Convertible
2001 – 2006 M3 Coupe
2001 – 2006 M3 Convertible
General Motors: 133,221 total number potentially affected vehicles
2002 – 2003 Buick LeSabre
2002 – 2003 Buick Rendezvous
2002 – 2003 Cadillac DeVille
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Trailblazer
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Impala
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo
2002 – 2003 Chevrolet Venture
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy
2002 – 2003 GMC Envoy XL
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Aurora
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Bravada
2002 – 2003 Oldsmobile Silhouette
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Bonneville
2002 – 2003 Pontiac Montana